The overall goal of the research in our laboratory is to investigate acoustic communication in animals. We take a comparative approach, measuring hearing and vocalizations in a number of different species, including birds and mice. We do psychoacoustic studies of hearing in animals using operant conditioning techniques, and we record sonic and ultrasonic vocalizations from our subjects in various contexts.
Birds are ideal models for the perceptual organization of complex sounds because, like humans, they produce, learn, and use complex acoustic signals for communication. Although conducted in a laboratory setting, auditory tests in birds are usually designed to parallel the acoustic problems they face in their natural habitats, including the need to locate conspecifics, discriminate among potential mates, and defend their territories.
Our mouse studies involve the production and perception of acoustic signals. Mice have typically not been used in behavioral measures of acoustic communication. We are measuring auditory acuity in mice for simple sounds and will extend these experiments to studies on the natural vocalizations of these animals.